Something is terribly wrong. I sense confusion, embarrassment, a hint of panic. One second I try to figure out what the problem is, the next I know and brace myself for the evaporating experience of a hot flash. I stand at the kitchen counter, cutting tomatoes, and I feel my face turn equally red. Gradually, the burning sensation spreads over my whole body, and I break into a sweat. Thank God, it lasts only a minute.
Back to normal, I tuck my hair behind my ear and watch my 14-year-old daughter Aisha. She has just arrived home from school. Squatting, she caresses her small dog that jumps up to her, excited that his playmate has returned.
“Mummy, you know what Francesca did today?”
“Well, no, but I would like to.” I turn to the stove and slide the sliced tomatoes into the frying pan, where little pieces of garlic and peperoncino already are sautéing in olive oil from our own trees. We’re having guests for dinner tonight and I’m stressed, because I want to finish cooking before they arrive.
“She told the teacher she needed to wash her hands, but instead she went to the teachers’ lounge and used her cell phone to photograph the test of next week!”
“Wow… that’s serious, honey. That’s cheating. Does she realize that she’s risking suspension?”
Aisha pushes the dog away and turns on her tablet. “No, I don’t think so. Although she’ll do anything to be popular. She said she’d send it to each of us on Facebook.”
Thank you Lord, for a daughter who is always open with me so that I can guide her and show her Your way.
“Ah, here it is already. So what do I do, Mom?”
I ponder a few seconds before I answer, “Sweetheart, what do you think would be the best thing to do?”
“Throw it away?”
“It would, wouldn’t it?”
“So I can’t even have a look?”
“Do you want to participate in cheating?”
I hear a disappointed sigh. “Well, I guess not.”
I stir in the tomato sauce, add some white wine, and inhale the lovely aroma.
“Okay Mom, it’s gone.”
“Good girl. I’m really proud of you.” I put the spoon away and turn around to give her a big hug.
“Whatever grade you get on the test, it’ll be worth a thousand times more than the grades of the kids who cheated, honey.”
She looks up at me and gives me a big smile.
Grateful for my daughter’s honest heart, I let her go and continue cooking the pasta sauce, the lemon chicken, the vegetables, and the jam tart.
Here in Italy, eating together is an important event. It affirms friendships. In addition, we always pray for opportunities to share God’s love and grace while we have fellowship over a meal. However, this country is famous for its cuisine, and its people are reluctant to try unfamiliar food. I want our guests feel at ease; therefore, I prepare genuine Italian dishes with great care.
By the time our guests arrive, Aisha has finished her homework, my husband Jan has set the table, and I’ve just put the tart in the oven. We welcome the lovely family we recently met and invite them to sit down.
After some small talk, Jan says a short prayer that as usual, results in a brief, awkward silence. Then we dive into the pasta all’arrabbiata.
Suddenly, I hear a little squeak. Aisha stares at her food, frowning in disgust. “Yuck! There’s a hair in my pasta!”
Cringing with embarrassment, I suppress the urge to cover my face. Instead, I rack my brain for some reassuring reply, but before I can open my mouth, she adds, “Is it yours or the dog’s?”
A violent hot flash engulfs me. While my husband tries to distract our guests, I manage to teach my daughter what to do whenever you spot a foreign object in your food: push it to the edge of your plate--silently.
Openness. Honesty. Yes, I thank God for Aisha’s praiseworthy qualities. But Lord, I really could use your help with the fine-tuning.
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